Music for 1, 2, 3, and 4 guitars with Threefifty Duo (Le Poisson Rouge).

Thu., January 26, 2012 / 6:30 PM

Excited to see Volume 1 contributors Threefifty Duo putting together a showcase for this Thursday at Le Poisson Rouge! Music for 1, 2, 3, and 4 guitars centers around the idea of pushing the limits of classical instruments and includes a roster of impressive and dedicated craftsmen. I asked Geremy Schulick to take a moment to talk about the performers and what they bring to the show. Check it out this Thursday at Le Poission Rouge!

ABOUT THE SHOW, FROM Geremy Schulick: 

I was looking to showcase a wide variety of guitar-centric music within a certain aesthetic that has emerged on the contemporary music scene, especially here in NYC. Many terms have been dubbed for this aesthetic, “indie-classical,” “post-classical,” “cross-genre,” “classical crossover” are just a few of them, and I suppose they all have slightly different connotations. One could write volumes about this whole phenomenon, but to sum it up, essentially, many classically trained musicians nowadays are wanting to break out of the more formal concert hall setting and bring music to a wider audience both by incorporating any number of pop/rock-associated elements into their music and by playing at more “downtown” venues like rock clubs and bars. There are many venues especially in NYC that have come to embrace this trend (now that it has become further widespread, even a few “uptown” venues have started to catch on), and Le Poisson Rouge is one of the venues truly at the forefront of this. Then I also had this idea of having a guitar soloist, duo, trio and quartet to vary up the format and present a nice arc to the evening. The performers I chose all are “classical guitarists” in a certain sense, but all of them are very much outside of that box as well.

Andrew McKenna Lee is an amazing classical guitar player, and plays many of the solo guitar repertoire’s most daunting classical standards beautifully. He is also getting his doctorate at Princeton in composition, so he has written many larger-scale works for orchestra, large ensembles, everything really. I mainly picked him because the solo guitar pieces he’s written, in particular his “Scordatura Suite” which he’ll be playing, are simply stunning and definitely fit into this kind of aesthetic I was talking about. The whole suite is for solo classical (nylon string) guitar, a very standard format, but his approach to the instrument is anything but standard. His rock influences (Jimi Hendrix is one of his biggest heroes) are clear with his use of bends, extended hammer-ons and pull-offs (sorry I’m going a bit into guitar geek lingo here), and of course he strums the guitar so hard sometimes you think he’s going to crack it in two.

When Andrew told me that he also wanted to play Steve Reich’s seminal guitar masterpiece “Electric Counterpoint” on his set, I was thrilled, because Steve Reich is really one of the forefathers of this new “indie-classical” trend. The way Reich interweaves and repeats short rhythmic motives creates a strong energetic pulse which is at the forefront of his music, and that alone was a serious departure for a classical music composer at the time. This heightened sense of repetition and pulse are elements much more prevalent in pop and rock music, and I think this is why the more conservative academics look down on it (and it’s what I love most about it!).

As for my band Threefifty Duo, Brett and I met while we were both in school for classical guitar, and we started out by playing many of the classic masterpieces written for and arranged for classical guitar duo — Bach, Scarlatti, Brahms, Granados, etc. We’ve both always loved writing music, but were so focused on the performance aspect that we didn’t pursue it much in school. However, when we graduated we started to get more and more into that, and since we both have similar backgrounds growing up obsessively listening to and playing rock music what came out just naturally reflected that musical vocabulary as well. Soon we started including steel-string guitar into the mix, and lately we’ve developed a bit of an unhealthy obsession with electric guitar and effects pedals. We also feel grateful any time we can perform with my lovely wife, audiovisual artist Jennifer Stock, who’ll be premiering some new videos to our latest pieces. LPR has a great set up for video so we’re particularly excited about that for this show.

Twi the Humble Feather are a great addition to this concert mainly because I feel like their music veers even further away from a classical sound, even though they’re playing classical nylon-string guitars with more or less a classical technique. Their music has some minimalistic qualities almost reminiscent of the aforementioned Steve Reich, but they bring these hypnotic repeated textures into a dreamy, almost psychedelic world. They’re the only act on the concert that will be incorporating vocals, but without any discernible words as far as I know. That in and of itself is a departure for the classical guitar format, especially since they certainly don’t sing in a “classical” style.

Dither was an obvious choice for this concert, because I knew they would bring something more edgy and experimental to the table. They are four classically trained electric guitarists, and they play music written by some of today’s most innovative modern-day composers. At this point the electric guitar is no longer incredibly new to classical music, but I often find that the electric guitar in a classical music setting is invariably toned down and not given the freedom to express its full palette of tone colors or go past a certain decibel point. This is certainly not the case with Dither, which is what I love most about them. They are LOUD. And they are nuts with effects pedals so you really never know what sounds to expect from them next. They wholeheartedly embrace all the electric guitar is capable of, and seek composers out who share that mentality. That, however, also includes many more subtle, clean and intricate textures as well — they are by no means always about playing explosive wild stuff all the time.

Overall I’m really happy with the lineup because everyone shares this common connection to classical guitar in some respect, and everyone is branching outside of that, but all in very different ways. I’ve always thought that’s what makes for great complementary programming — some common thread is present, but it’s approached differently by each performer.